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Music: The Ultimate Fitness Enhancer

Updated on May 24, 2013

Key Aspect of Training:

We need to push our bodies in order to escalate our fitness level and capacity. For real physical progress to occur, we need to go through that extra mile and challenge our bodies. This is the only way it will adapt and become stronger, faster, more flexible, more agile and fitter.

Every active sport enthusiast knows how music plays an important role in the training sessions that build up to a strong, resistant and fit body. Music can help us challenge ourselves by pumping us up with high level energy and propelling us into giving the best performance we can give. The right music can effectively help us train harder, run faster, jump higher....

In the last London hosted Olympic Games, we saw the relevant role music plays in the mind set of world class athletes such as Michael Phelps, who in every single competition came out to the Olympic pool hooked to his iPod, listening to some great music before giving the performances of his life!!!

I am not saying a particular soundtrack can turn us into multi-gold Olympic medalists, but I know music can aid us in becoming better athletes than what we currently are. Competition is with ourselves, and we are the ones who need to push harder if we want to enhance our physical capacity.

Many people find working out too demanding and boring. However, music can help us enjoy it much more, and may help us get through the exercises when we think we can’t do it anymore. Music can shift our state of mind and instantly get us energized, which will in turn have a mental effect over our bodies.

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Take Running as an Example

Let us take running as an example. If we want to run faster and become more resistant, we need to push our bodies to do so. If we stagnate into a comfortable rhythm every time we go out running for 30, 40, 60 minutes, we will never improve. To do so, we need to combine our long distance running with short and intense running sessions.

A way of implementing this fitness improving principle is to alternate our long distance runs with:

  • Sprinting intervals, taking a limited amount of rest between sprints, or
  • Short fast running sessions that could consist of 20 minutes running as fast as we can instead of 1 hour running at a comfortable step.

Always strive to break your personal best mark. This is the only way you will become the faster and more resistant runner you wish to be. To do so, you need to push, push, and push! It is a matter of mind over body, and music can help you achieve this goal effectively.

A Good Way to Start Working Out Short and Intense

Interval & Intense Activity to Rest Ratio

Intervals can be done in many different ways; however, they invariably consist of a period of intense activity, followed by a period of rest or active rest. Active rest means your body won’t be completely static, but will be moving in a softer way in order to get its heart rate back down, just enough to be ready for another high intensity round in which it will spike up again.

The less you rest between active periods, the more you will be pushing your body to evolve into a fitter version of yourself: a stronger body with ever increasing cardio-pulmonary endurance (tighter and leaner as well).

If you are starting to train with intervals, you can begin with a 1 to 1 active/rest ratio (1:1). This means you will be sprinting or engaging in high intensity cardiovascular activity for the same amount of time you will be resting.

Examples 1:1 Ratio

  • 1 minute sprint, 1 minute walk (active rest)
  • 40 seconds rope jumping, 40 seconds jumping jacks (active rest)
  • 30 seconds plank jacks, 30 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds mountain climbers, 20 seconds rest

The 1:1 Ratio

An example of this would be: sprint (meaning run as fast as you can) for 1 minute, then walk for 1 minute, sprint for 1 minute, walk for 1 minute, and so forth.

You can also do 30 seconds of intense activity followed by 30 seconds of rest. The idea is that you work and rest for the same amount of time, regardless if it is 30 seconds, 1 minute, 1.5 minutes or 2 minutes.

The interval’s length can be customized to your current cardio-pulmonary endurance, as long as you keep the active to rest ratio in equal parts you will be ok. On the long run though, the idea is to be able to resist longer periods of high cardiovascular intensity so that our bodies become fitter.

For a 1:1 ratio, 12-15 repetitions are required for a complete training session.

Examples 2:1 Ratio

  • 1 minute sprint, 30 seconds walk (active rest)
  • 1 minute rope jumping, 30 seconds butt kicks (active rest)
  • 30 seconds plank thrusts, 15 seconds rest
  • 30 seconds high knee jumps, 15 seconds rest

The 2:1 Ratio

Once your cardio-pulmonary endurance has evolved into a higher level, you can then switch to a 2 to 1 ratio (2:1). This means that for every 2 minutes of sprinting, you will rest 1 minute.

Again, the interval can vary as long as you get twice as much intense cardiovascular activity than rest, be it sprinting 2 minutes, resting 1 minute, or sprinting 1 minute then resting 30 seconds, or sprinting 30 seconds then resting 15 seconds (you get the idea).

Doing intervals with a 2:1 ratio means less resting periods, and thus less repetitions are required, in this case 10-12 repetitions are enough.


Breaking Our Personal Best Mark with Music

To help enhance my fitness level, I am always interested in getting new music to add to my training session soundtrack. Of course, music tastes and preferences will always vary, but generally speaking, music that is up bit and high on the emotional scale will prove more effective.

Slow, romantic music for example, is unlikely to pump us up…… However, music that makes us feel exhilarated, enthusiastic and cheerful will inevitably propel us into action and a more game-like attitude. By using music as a psychological tool to program our emotional state, we are helping ourselves to also give the performance of our lives and feel like the Michael Phelps of our universe.


Great Workout Implements to Have at Home

Reebok 75cm Stability Ball Kit with DVD
Reebok 75cm Stability Ball Kit with DVD

The Stability Ball is a fantastic tool to implement complex strength exercises in your workouts.


Why is Strength Training Important for Your Overall Training Routine?

Making resistance training part of your overall training routine is very important to keep strong muscles that will prevent your body from being injured during the more hectic part of your physical activity.

Whether you practice a team or individual sport, run marathons or go cycling, you are susceptible to injuries provoked by sudden sprints, or other fast and abrupt movements. Even when you are running at a constant moderate rate, repetitive movements can also lead to injuries if our body isn’t equipped with a good armor. By building up strong muscles, we can help prevent this from happening. Alongside this very effective measure, warming up properly and stretching after our sport/training session will reduce quite significantly the chances of hurting ourselves.

Complex & Static Strength Training: Advanced Side Plank


Body Weight Movements

Some great and common examples of body weight movements are:

  • Different variety of Push Ups
  • T-ups
  • Planking
  • Lunges
  • Squats

The Strength Training Common Misconception Uncovered

Many people think that strength training is equivalent to having ginormous bulky muscles and looking like Rambo’s Sylvester Stallone. Nevertheless, volume is not directly proportional to strength. Strength doesn’t necessary involve bulky muscles and it can be trained even without any weights. By practicing particular exercises in which we use our own body as weight, we can also moderately build up muscle, become tighter, more compact and leaner. Practice will slowly but surely build up to stronger muscles even when they are not visually expanding to transform into Stallone.


Running Soundtrack for High Intensity Training Sessions

Variety is, as in many aspects of life, a good ingredient for our training soundtracks. As a general recommendation, try to renew your playlist as often as you can to keep it fresh and with a maximum psychological effect over your emotional state and physical performance.

I have included in this soundtrack a mix and match of the 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s and 2010’s with different genres of music to make it as least monotonous as possible. Having just one kind of music, even if it is high energy, can have a flattening effect and decrease our performance. The idea here is to be on edge all throughout the workout, making it as intense as possible. If we accomplish this goal, we will get our bodies to adapt and achieve the fitness level or physical trait we wish for, be it a better cardio-respiratory endurance, becoming leaner, running faster, being stronger or getting fitter in general.

Please feel free to wipe out the songs that are not for you or just pick a few of them to add to your own top-performance soundtrack.

Give Your Personal Best: Running / Interval Training Soundtrack

Song / Artist / Album
Step On / Happy Mondays / Pills Thrills & Bellyaches
Ayla / The Maccabees / Given To The Wild
Song 4 Mutya / Groove Armada / Soundboy Rock
Comfortably Numb / Scissor Sisters / (Pink Floyd Cover)
Edge of Seventeen / Stevie Nicks / Bella Donna
Fresh / Kool and The Gang / The Very Best of Kool and The Gang
Kiss Ya Lips (No I.D.) / Ian Brown / Solarized
Rearviewmirror / Pearl Jam / Vs.
Free / The Soup Dragons
Shame On Me / Amanda Blank
Just Say Yes / The Cure / Greatest Hits
Drumming Song / Florence + The Machine / Lungs
Fascination / La Roux
Smack My Bitch Up / Prodigy / The Fat of The Land
Black Steel / Tricky / Maxinquaye
Peace Repackaged / Lionrock / An Instinct for Detection
Sell Out / The Levellers / Levelling The Land
Disparate Youth / Santigold / Master of My Make-Believe
You’re Unbelievable / EMF / Schubert Dip
Viernes (Friday) / DLD / Primario
Push It / Salt-N- Pepa / The Best of Salt-N-Pepa
Zero / Yeah Yeah Yeahs / It’s Blitz!
Tell IT To My Heart / Taylor Dayne / Greatest Hits
Needy Girl / Chromeo / Fancy Footwork Deluxe Edition
Microdancing / Babasonicos / Mucho
Suddenly I See / KT Tunstall / Eye To The Telescope
Panic Switch / Silversun Pickups / Swoon
Not in Love (feat. Robert Smith) / Crystal Castles
Dancing on my Own / Robyn / Body Talk
Last Living Souls / Gorillaz / Demon Days
History / Groove Armada feat. Will Young / Black Light
If Everybody Looked the Same / Groove Armada / Vertigo

All comments on Music and Training Sessions are Welcomed

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    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico

      :) I imagine that gardening can be a tough job that is likely to develop quite a sweet! These music principles do apply to any manual activity I guess, even if it doesn't require such an important maximization of performance, it can set the mood and make the moment more pleasurable.

      Glad you dropped by, thanks for the feedback.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      lol. I get my workout in the vegetable garden. As strange as it sounds, I work hard with the shovel or tossing bales of straw around, then slow down a little as I pull out weeds ... then grab the shovel again. This can go on all day.

      I think I'll add some music. :)

      Voted up and shared.

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico

      Hi agusfanani, I agree, music can have a high impact and positive psychological effects in many aspects of our lives, not just training and/or working out. Who doesn´t love the way it can make us feel? I have had music as a fundamental partner in my sports life and that´s why I was inspired to write this hub, and I am glad you found it interesting and useful. Thanks for your comments and feedback, they are very much appreciated.

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 4 years ago from Indonesia

      Thank you for sharing this informative hub. Music is so influential and boost spirit in many parts of our life including in high intensity workout. I vote this interesting, useful hub.